ESA Section 10 Permit for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard
Based on previous experience garnered from projects at Fort Hood and Camp Lejeune, NRS was retained by the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TxOGA) to assist in the development of the Texas Conservation Plan (TCP) for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL). Together with the Texas Comptroller’s office and numerous other stakeholders, NRS has worked to create a novel combination of available conservation mechanisms protecting the DSL, landowners, and industry.
As a result of a lawsuit settlement between the Department of Interior and two environmental groups, a large number of species are currently making their way through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listing process. FWS will be reviewing more than 250 species for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act over the near future. More than 100 of these possible listings directly impact the state of Texas, with the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard in the lead. This small reptile resides in the shinnery oak sand dunes of Eastern New Mexico and West Texas.
If the DSL is found to warrant federal protection, some of the resulting regulatory measures could potentially curtail current and future oil and gas exploration and development in the prolific Permian Basin area. Restricting oil and gas exploration and production would greatly impact the state and national economies as the Permian Basin is the nation’s largest domestic oil and gas producing region, providing thousands of jobs.
Scientific data and research is critical to determining an accurate ruling whether a species warrants federal protection. Unfortunately, the DSL is one of many species lacking sufficient scientific research. That’s why NRS assisted TxOGA in working with the Institute of Renewable Natural Resources at Texas A & M University to obtain as much biological research as possible in order to assist the FWS in determining whether to list the DSL, and, if listed, to form the basis of a workable management and recovery plan. NRS was instrumental in getting a Texas A & M University and University of Texas survey team on the ground in record time. The data collected was an integral component in the formation of the Texas Conservation Plan (TCP).
Beginning in June of 2011, NRS and other stakeholders worked almost non-stop to create the TCP, with dozens of meetings occurring in both Austin and Midland. The plan’s objective is to place the oil and gas industry, agriculture, and the State in the best position possible should the DSL become listed.
The TCP is a unique hybrid of conservation tools now available to non-federal entities under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. While Texas stakeholders agree the best solution would be to not list the DSL, the State and affected industries cannot afford to be unprepared should the lizard gain federal protection. The TCP allows temporary mitigation measures to occur on private lands while preserving landowner anonymity and confidentiality. The net result of the TCP would be minimal disruption of oil and gas exploration and development in the Permian Basin. The plan also includes a recovery component while providing a transitional process that helps to reduce landowner and producer uncertainties.